In almost every imaginable scenario, a clean energy future will include large-scale solar panel installations. Yet manufacturing the silicon metal required for them is complex and resource intensive.
Northwest communities have been fighting an onslaught of dirty energy proposals for nearly a decade, from coal terminals and oil pipelines to petrochemical refineries and natural gas facilities. Many of these projects marketed themselves as environmentally responsible, but they were all, in one way or another, expansions of the fossil fuel industry. They were dirty.
But what to make of a big industrial project proposal—one that uses coal and creates pollution—that would manufacture a key component of the region’s clean energy future?
That’s the question on the table in northeast Washington’s Pend Oreille County, where a Canadian mining company is looking to construct a $325 million smelter. The facility would use a small amount of coal, about 50,000 metric tons each year, to melt down sand to pure silicon for solar panels and other electronics. Though the project’s development is several months behind its original schedule, the proposal has kicked off a debate about the tradeoffs involved in the Northwest’s transition to renewable energy.
Opponents include residents in a rural area along the Idaho-Washington border, as well as a nearby tribe worried about air pollution and traffic congestion. But the project’s backers argue that because much of that silicon will be used to produce solar panels, it will actually help to improve air quality and fight climate change.
A type of semiconductor, pure silicon metal is a key component not only in solar panels, but also in computer chips and other products with electronic circuits. The company has yet to confirm any official customer contracts, but officials point out that it could deliver silicon metal to REC Silicon in Moses Lake, which would further refine the metal into high-purity polysilicon for its made-in-Washington solar panels.
In almost every imaginable scenario, a clean energy future will include large-scale solar panel installations. Yet manufacturing the silicon metal required for them is complex and resource intensive. The proposed project in northeast Washington is no exception.
What it takes to make a solar panel
Turning silica (aka silicon dioxide) into pure silicon metal isn’t easy. To do it, electric furnaces at the smelter must generate temperatures around 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit to melt a silica-fuel mixture and catalyze a chemical reaction to isolate the silicon metal. Even at their most efficient, these furnaces would have a voracious appetite for electricity: around 105 megawatts on a continuous basis, roughly the equivalent of 68,000 homes. Although the smelter would ostensibly be powered by Pend Oreille Public Utility District’s Box Canyon Dam, the facility would demand more power than the dam could provide on its own. (It has a maximum nameplate capacity of 90 megawatts after a 2015 turbine upgrade.) In fact, it’s more than four times the amount of electricity used by all of the utility’s residential and small commercial customers combined.
Producing one ton of silicon metal requires about six tons of raw materials, so HiTest’s planned 73,000 metric tons of silicon per year would require the delivery of hundreds of thousands of tons of raw materials to the Newport site. Nearby saw mills would send seven or eight trucks per day to deliver wood chips, which are integral to the smelting process. Trains loaded with silica from the Canadian quarry HiTest owns would share the tracks with others delivering coal to be mixed with the silica in the furnaces. The smelting process requires a rare type of metallurgic coal (likely obtained from Kentucky) known as “blue gem,” capable of burning at high temperatures with low ash and sulfur content so as not to contaminate the silicon metal. Operations at the smelter would demand approximately 48,000 metric tons of coal per year—roughly 40 rail cars each month.
All that assumes that the company can convince BNSF Railway to extend a railroad spur to the smelter site. If not, HiTest might instead use an estimated 37 trucks per day to transport the raw materials the last few miles from Idaho. Some residents contend that the smelter’s operations would require many more, but the company disputes these higher figures.
Yet the project’s impact on the public extends beyond local traffic concerns. The plan also faces questions about whether taxpayers are subsidizing the project.
The smelter and its discontents
In 2016, the Washington Department of Commerce designated the smelter proposal a “Project of Statewide Significance” and awarded HiTest a $300,000 economic development assistance grant. In September 2017, Pend Oreille Public Utility District (PUD) sold 186 acres in four parcels near Newport to the company for the same amount—and opponents of the project cried foul.
A group of local residents formed Citizens Against the Newport Smelter (CANSS), which has filed a lawsuit challenging the land deal between Pend Oreille PUD and HiTest. CANSS claims that the utility illegally bought 14 acres of land from the county with the intention of bundling it with other parcels for sale to HiTest just a week later. Further, the group alleges that the utility failed to follow procedure by declaring the land “surplus” (which would have triggered a public notification process and a solicitation of bids), rather than negotiating exclusively with HiTest for a sale. Pend Oreille PUD disputes that characterization, asserting that it posted the land for sale in the local paper multiple times, in compliance with state law.
CANSS also points out that the HiTest land is currently zoned as public land, meaning it would have to be rezoned before it could be used for private industrial purposes, which would in turn require action by the county commissioners and county planning commission, along with public hearings.
HiTest will also benefit from cheap electricity provided by the Box Canyon Dam, about 55 miles north of Newport. Exactly how much HiTest will pay is not clear because the company and the utility must still negotiate a power supply agreement. But at least one Canadian official, former BC Mines Minister Bill Bennett, has accused the county of offering below-cost electricity in order to woo the project south of the border.
Yet Pend Oreille County PUD’s rate schedule stipulates that contracts for large industrial customers must recover “all increased power costs arising from the new contractual load”—meaning that these enterprises would be required to pay their own way—and HiTest is currently funding a study of the potential impacts on the electrical grid. For its part, the PUD may be eager to find a big new industrial customer given uncertainty surrounding an old one: Ponderay Newsprint, which now consumes a remarkable 74 percent of the PUD’s power load, is forecasting reduced electricity demand and may even cease operating entirely in the near future owing to falling demand for newsprint.
The nearby Kalispel Tribe, whose traditional homeland spans present day northeastern Washington, northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana, opposes the project, arguing that the smelter’s air pollution and climate impacts are too severe and pointing out that the tribe’s most important natural resources have been historically degraded by government policy.
Meanwhile, Spokane-based environmental advocacy group The Lands Council objects to the modeling methods HiTest relied on for its air pollution estimates, which were not specific to the unique topography and weather patterns of the Pend Oreille River Valley. Neighboring tribes, including the Spokane and Kootenai, have registered similar concerns, calling for better air quality modeling techniques, data-sharing, and greater attention to native sovereignty before the state issues permits. In January 2018, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, the major regional consortium of tribes, published a joint statement calling for a halt to the permitting process and greater scrutiny of the project. And in April 2018, the Pend Oreille County Commissioners also called for more locally-specific air quality modeling and a formal health impact study.
The citizens group, CANSS, alleges that air pollution from the smelter could create potential health hazards. The group points to high levels of arsenic near a silicon smelter in Iceland as a cautionary tale.
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The company’s own estimates show that silicon metal production at the site would indeed produce pollution—a little more than 320,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, making it the 15th largest emitter in the state, ahead of the Wenatchee Alcoa aluminum smelter and the US Oil refinery in Tacoma. In addition, HiTest predicts it will generate over 700 metric tons per year each of smog- and acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. It would be the 6th largest emitter of sulfur dioxide in the state, and the 13th largest emitter of nitrogen dioxide. On the other hand, air quality in the Pend Oreille Valley is quite good, so while new pollution sources might mark a change from the status quo, overall pollution levels would likely remain relatively low.
All those figures would increase if the smelter doubles its furnace capacity, something HiTest is considering if market conditions prove favorable.
HiTest faces several hurdles before it can break ground on the project. Based on the company’s original timetable, the project is at least nine months behind schedule and the project backers have yet to file a permit application with the Washington Department of Ecology, the agency that would oversee review and permitting. Once they do, the enterprise will be subject to an environmental review under the State Environmental Policy Act, an assessment that will inform decisions about key air quality permits. Plus, the smelter will also need a building permit and a zoning permit from Pend Oreille County.
Clean energy questions
Whatever happens, the silicon smelter proposal embodies the tradeoffs of fighting climate change. Do nothing, and manmade ravages to the planet’s atmosphere will condemn millions of people to displacement and economic impoverishment. Yet many of the solutions to climate change sometimes inflict their own damage. Much like carbon taxes can unduly burden low income people, so too industrial development for clean energy purposes may have impacts on the most powerless, whether largely white rural communities or historically oppressed indigenous peoples like the Kalispel Tribe.
The Northwest is rapidly transitioning to clean energy sources, including solar panels made with polysilicon that essentially require mining and smelting to happen somewhere on earth. Air pollution from a silicon smelter may affect nearby communities, but blocking a new smelter in Cascadia will likely only serve to drive solar manufacturing to other countries, perhaps in places with fewer environmental safeguards.
Can Northwest leaders figure out a way to mitigate the project’s pollution, so that they might permit it without undue impact to nearby communities and tribes? And if they can’t, what then for the future of silicon metal manufacturing and, by extension, solar panel-generated electricity? Unlike so many of the coal, oil, and gas projects contested by the Thin Green Line, the region’s opposition movement to fossil fuels, the Newport silicon smelter offers no easy answers.
Throughout this article we refer to the project backers as HiTest Sand, consistent with usage up until the company’s recent rebranding of its smelter-development arm as PacWest Silicon.
Addendum 6/26/18: Between the time when we researched & wrote this article and when it published, the projected backer submitted a formal letter to the Washington Department of Ecology. Based on information in that letter, we amended this article to reflect the larger 73,000 ton production volume (which we initially reported as 60,000 consistent with what was available in the public record at the time).
Also of interest in the PacWest letter:
- 50 percent of the silicon metal produced at the facility is earmarked for solar cells.
- HiTest gives a little more detail about their raw material inputs: 170,000 tons/year quartz (silica), 150,000 tons/year coal + charcoal, and 130,000 tons/year wood chips. It’s not clear what the precise breakdown between the coal and charcoal would be, so we can’t say whether it would be any different from the 48,000 tons/year coal we estimated. (However, the numbers in the submission to Ecology don’t quite square with the ratios mentioned in the company’s PowerPoint—in particular, the coal + charcoal number seems high relative to the wood chip number.) Altogether, and assuming the 6:1 ratio of raw materials the company mentioned in the PowerPoint presentation, the volume of inputs imply a production level of roughly 75,000 tons/year of silicon metal production—not far from 73,000 the firm mentions in the letter to Ecology. That would be equal to the current largest production facility in the US, which is Ferroglobe Alloy in West Virgina.
- The company estimates approximately 50 commercial/non-passenger vehicle trips to the facility each day. That doesn’t mean trucks per se, and the revised figure could still be consistent with their 37 truck per day estimate.There’s just not enough information to go on. The letter does, however, seem to indicate that the vehicle figures are independent of whether or not the rail spur is constructed.
- The company estimates an average of 10 rail cars per day from all raw materials combined. This is not necessarily inconsistent with our 40/month estimate for coal alone.
Ahren Stroming is a research contributor to Sightline. He’s a former policy analyst for the City of Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment and a current graduate student at the University of Freiburg in Germany.
Very well written and thorough article. Thank you so much for doing the research into the HiTest now PacWest project. There are a few things the Citizens would like to add to the article. One is that HiTest was not registered to do business in the the State of Washington prior to receiving grant money and other benefits. The is the issue that the public land that was illegally sold to HiTest is land locked and only has utility easements to the property. HiTest has no source of water or sewer and the site sit’s on top of three water recharge zones. The Little Spokane, Middle Spokane and PendOreille #62. There is the issue of set back requirements to municipal wells and the site lies within the setback requirements. The City of Newports new wells we’re funded using HUD funding which means the Federal Government will need to get involved over the municiple wells. Then there is the trespassing and damage to private property by HiTest. On January 2, 2018 HiTest hired contractor’s to plow the Bonneville Power Association / BPA power lines from Highway 2 up to the public land that was sold to HiTest. This was done two weeks after HiTest was notified that they we’re require to fill out a required application and contact all the property owners and get permission. HiTest did neither of the required actions and then stated it was the County that authorized the plowing when confronted by the Citizens and property owners. Please go to CANSS.ORG for more information.
Thank you Michael Naylor for the additional information. I am horrified by this debacle of greed and not sure how to help as I live in Boise Idaho but from Priest Lake since childhood. I will go to CANSS.ORG and also have been sharing this and any other information on Facebook.
According to Karen Hardy and Bill Ellis less than 10% of the silicon produced will be used in solar panels.
This is correct. Most of the silicon produced in this plant will not be of high enough grade for silicon chips and will be ear marked for the automotive industry. (paints and dashboard plastics). It’s estimated that only about 10-22% of the product of this plant will go into the solar industry.
The acid rain will devastate the fish & here in Idaho two large lakes will be immediately effected:(
The site in question is surrounded by private residents and is just one mile from downtown Newport. 5 schools, the hospital which is surrounded by an associated assisted living complex and an under construction 72 bed Dementia and Alzheimer’s unit directly next to the assisted living home. An industrial complex of the type and size of this proposed system should be over 20 miles removed from any community not dropped one mile up wind of one.
There is no upside of dropping a Superfund site into a community that does not have the infrastructure to support it. It would drive property values, make impossible sell any homes in the pollution plume of such a facility.
It’s a town killer if built and would trap those unable to afford to leave the area for their health. We are fighting for the survival of our communities and our rural way of life.
Another issue with this smelter is that the goverment’s own Figures indicate that only a small percentage (10 percent or so) of silicon processed (as this plant proposes) is ultimately used in the semiconductor or solar panel industry. Most of it is used in other industrial processes, aluminun, etc. so this end product of this proposed plant (which has to go to other places for further refining) may not even be used for the kind of environmentally friendly end uses these people are claiming.
Wonderful article. Thank you for bringing attention to the issue we are facing over here.
I will take serious issue with your statement that the Newport area is a remote area. It is not remote in a sense that people don’t live here or that they do not wish to live here. We are only 35 to 45 miles from the larger cities and municipal areas on good well maintained highways. Between outside foreign companies looking for legislative generated “freebies and special tax discounts our good fortune to have two taxpayer owned hydro electric Dams our local power rates are under attack for our power.
We are fighting for our lives here. 3/4 of the county’s population lies in the southern 1/3 of the county. Overtaxing our infrastructure so a foreign company can pollute out air and property while reaping the profits is not any of incentive for the citizens that love our homes and the valley we live in. We respect our downwind neighbors in all directions the winds may blow.
People are coming here to retire because of the quality of our environment Access to good local healthcare and the peace and quiet our communities afford. There is no upside to this devastating pollution factory proposed to be placed on our doorstep pushing pollution into our homes on the prevailing breeze.
There are far more appropriate places for this industrial project with no communities already in existence that would be receptive to such a project.
We are not remote, unless you think Seattle is the center of the universe.
We shall resist, it is our homes they are attacking!
Eric de Place
Thanks for the feedback. I removed the word “remote” from the article.
Phyllis J. Kardos
Someone willing to tell it like it is. Much appreciated. It is good know that we, the folks, in the area are not the only ones who see this as a major health and environment issues. Come visit us and we will show you the site. We are Responsible Growth * NE Washington. Check us out on Facebook for updates on what is going on. Thank you again.
Thank You for a very informative and well written article that will help to shed some light on this matter. For the locals that live in the area of this proposed Smelter, we feel very threatened! There is so much information, and would be easy to just sum it up to a point the readers don’t really learn anything. You went above and beyond and actually did research! THANK YOU!
NONE of the components will be used to produce solar panels – which are NOT climate “friendly” at all. It takes an enormous amount of fossil fuels to create a solar panel, and their toxic waste is also a major problem.
PacWest / HiTest (they tried to change their name) has been absolute HORRIBLE to this community to date. They’ve not delivered on a single promise or kept a single claim they’ve made accurate. They lied about everything from the very beginning to this date – water use, land use, pollution levels, air quality report, commitment to the community, willingness to engage in a full environmental review, and public involvement. Failing the PR war – they’ve resorted to secret meetings with corrupt local officials.
As companies go, PacWest is nothing but investment bankers hell bent on making quick profits and leaving behind a horrific environmental disaster. They have no experience either in doing any of this (only one “investor” does).
Governor Inslee has made a MAJOR mistake calling this a “Project of Statewide Assistance”. It’s a local nightmare. Local Pend Oreille County Commissioners have consistently lied, deceived and underhandedly illegally sold public land for the exclusive use of HiTest. They’ve misappropriated public funds, engaged in coverup and deceptions and threatened the public for trying to stop this project.
The smelter location they chose is just 3/4 of a mile away from the town of Newport, and sits directly ABOVE elementary and high schools, the hospital and the entire downtown district. The location is truly horrible, the land has no water, so HiTest is now trying to purchase illegal domestic water supplies and convert them to industrial use (highly illegal). They’re also trying to gain road access across private lands.
It gets worse – the County Comprehensive Plan absolutely prohibits industrial development in this area unequivocally – and the Commissioners are in direct violation of this ordinance and have been secretly trying to change this restriction without public involvement (also illegal).
What we have here in Pend Oreille County is corrupt Commissioners who have sought to do everything illegally and underhanded against the voting public’s intentions and desire to keep this community safe from toxic industries. These same people have been joined by the Public Utility District key personnel who illegally sold property to HiTest Sands, Inc. (now called PacWest). A lawsuit has been filed challenging this issue.
This is a toxic industry being orchestrated by toxic people against the wishes and demands of local residents. They could not even get this built in Canada, where Golden kicked out this proposal, utterly rejecting this. Now, this is the 4th attempt by HiTest / PacWest to get this horrible polluting plant located and it will be met with non-stop resistance.
Keep up the great job you are doing. You perfectly “nailed it!” We are in a fight for our very lives (health) and way of living. The very reason so many of us live in this beautiful place would be forever altered. In short, there is nothing that this dirty, toxic, noisy, hot monstrosity has to offer that is worth dying for.
Jeff Corning, thank you for speaking the truth! The PUD is having a rate hike meeting on July 10, 2018 at 9 am. Many of us concerned citizens plan to attend. We are currently looking into how the public can remove corrupt PUD Commissioner’s and upper management. All the lawsuits, public land sales, negative bond ratings and back room deals are costing the share holder’s and rate payers a fortune.
The “clean energy” article points are disingenuous. There is no such thing as clean energy unless it is photosynthesis. All other forms of man-made energy are the downstream inputs of dirty fossil fuels. This includes hydro, wind, nuclear, gas, coal, etc. All require enormous amounts of fossil fuels to fabricate and maintain the facilities.
The so-called “carbon offset” scam is a euphemism of monumental deceptions used by industry to continue to pollute. HiTest is simply being grossly deceptive as is Governor Inslee about the levels of pollution emitted and how it will “help” Washington industry. It won’t – which is partly why they have no contracts but want to start polluting anyway.
The alleged “transition to clean energy sources” is either deliberate or accidental misdirection by the author. As long as we keep pulling fossil fuels out of the ground to build energy systems, or maintain them (including a very long global supply chain and the transportation systems also require), these clean energy sources are utterly non-existent.
Eric de Place
I respectfully disagree. There’s a huge difference between an electricity grid powered by coal and fracked gas and one powered by wind and solar. It’s true that both have environmental impacts, but they are hardly comparable in scope or scale.
Consider just one example. Whatcom County recently wrestled with a proposal to export 48 million tons of coal annually for power production in China, while the Pend Oreille proposal would use 48,000 tons per year—or about 1/1,000th—in a manufacturing process. That’s not to say the the HiTest proposal is smart for Pend Oreille County—lots of factors bear on that question—but I don’t think it’s helpful to imagine that all fossil fuel use is somehow equivalent.
Thank you for covering this story any word we can get out about this issue is greatly appreciated.
Add to the mix the seemingly intentional lack of transparency of this entire ORDEAL. Hush, hush meetings, misinformation, changing policies to accommodate PacWest, and on and on. Our elected officials who wooed this company into our midst can pride themselves on bringing much more to our community than PacWest. A divided community and the total mistrust of elected officials are just a couple of the tidbits we now get to live with. On a happier note, we have also become a community united across state lines to stop this monstrosity. People who put the pleasures of living in this amazing area on hold to spend countless hours educating people on the facts of adding this smelter to our town, having yard sales, dinners, and auctions to raise money so they can fight what those who are supposed to represent them brought upon this area, attending meetings, protesting, and even running for office on a NO Newport Smelter platform. Generosity fighting greed. Facts fighting lies. Transparency fighting the lack thereof. And life goes on in this little piece of paradise.
You keep saying silicon metal. Silicon is a semiconductor… Not a metal.
Eric de Place
Technically, silicon is a “metalloid”, an element that falls between metal and non-metal categories. (See: https://www.livescience.com/28893-silicon.html) In the industry, however, it is commonly referred to as “silicon metal” because it does have several key characteristics of a metal, and we adopted that usage here.
See, e.g. https://www.thebalance.com/metal-profile-silicon-4019412; and http://www.thequartzcorp.com/en/applications/silicon-metal.html; and http://www.wbrl.co.uk/silicon-metal.html.
Responsible Growth NE Washington
Whether a metal or metalloid is not the issue – stopping this proposed silicon metals smelter is the issue.
Just a small point to bring up, but silicon is not metal.
Eric de Place
Justin, see my reply to Joe above. “Silicon metal” is standard terminology.
Pristine natural lands are becoming few and far between in the U.S. – Pend Oreille County is one of them. We must stop this trajedy from destroying the lives of the local community and the beautiful land they call home.
Mr. De Place, and Mr. Stroming,
Thank you for bringing this issue to the public’s attention State wide. However, I question your research on the issue. By HiTest’s PSD modeling, the Sulfur Dioxide would be 720 Tons per year, and the Nitorgen Oxide would be 700 tons per year, combined to be 1,420 Tons per year, not the 700 Tons per year as stated in your article. Which would be doubled as proposed by HiTest(PacWestSilicon) in their submittal to the Dept. Of Ecology, earlier this month. Please research it and contact the DOE for a copy, as the number of trucks and rail cars is significantly high than as reported here. When you accurately state that the air quality here is good, that is because it has not been subject to heavy industry pollution. All of the natural wonders and habitats will be threatened by the acid rain from 1,420 to2,840 tons of SD2 and NO emitted per year, including the Caribou, the cutthroat trout and bull trout. Not to mention the adverse health effects of sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide and Dioxide ground ozone and smog on the local population. I challenge you both and Governor Inslee to live within one to two miles of this smelter and raise your children and grandchildren there. The people who like here did not ask for this smelter and chose to live here for the clean air, water and to be close to nature and the wild. If the Governor wants it, build it in an existing heavy industrial area of the state, that will not compromise one of the last places free of pollution and the ideal that he hope’s for, for the rest of the State.
Eric de Place
Thanks for commenting. If there are factual errors in the piece, we will correct them post haste. In the meantime, however, I will point to HiTest’s modeling results, which can be found in Table 1 on page 10
here, which are consistent with the numbers you mentioned.
That’s also consistent with what we wrote: “HiTest predicts it will generate over 700 metric tons per year each of smog- and acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. It would be the 6th largest emitter of sulfur dioxide in the state, and the 13th largest emitter of nitrogen dioxide.”
And we did mention health effects: “The citizens group, CANSS, alleges that air pollution from the smelter could create potential health hazards. The group points to high levels of arsenic near a silicon smelter in Iceland as a cautionary tale.”
Again, please do feel free to share material with additional info.
The question of appropriate siting is a bigger challenge, I think. Where is the right location for a large industrial facility? I’ll bet you the good people of Tacoma don’t want it. Same story in industrial Columbia River towns like Longview. Or maybe it should be sited in China or Vietnam or India where there are weaker regulatory standards? I’m asking these questions sincerely—not at all to make light of what is a very serious public policy question—but I really don’t think there’s a straightforward answer. And I’m unconvinced that already polluted areas should by default continue to carry the burden.
I’d very much welcome further conversation on this point.
Eric de Place
After doing some more digging, we found the letter to Ecology that you mentioned. It’s here, and it apparently became public between the time when we researched & wrote this article and when it published. In any case, we amended the piece to reflect the larger 73,000 ton production volume (which we initially reported as 60,000 consistent with what was available in the public record at the time). Thanks for bringing it to our attention.
As a candidate for county commissioner here in Pend Oreille County, I find your article to be on-point and objective. Two local groups, CANSS and RG*NEW, have worked tirelessly for months now in keeping the commissioners in check and challenging a shady land deal. Thank you for helping spread the word, and for the journalistic and well-referenced article.
To PUD: if you have a power surplus you cannot sell and therefore need to find high electricity consumers… would it not be better to just decommission box Canyon dam or one of the others and save some salmon? A false economy is akin to theft. We citizens struggle getting low wattage light bulbs, energy efficient refrigerators and turning off lights in our homes just to squander on silicon that may or may not find a ‘green destiny’ and could very well end up as kitchen gadgets. Those in poverty burn wood in the winter here so Hitest/Pacwest can get a discount in their power bill. It is mind bending at best.
Question: what business does hydropower rich state with too much electricity in getting involved in solar power generation? This is Arizona’s job or south central Washington at least!
Corruption by public officials. The only thing good that has come out of the HiTest Statewide Project of Significant Shame is that it has brought the communities together like never before. This project is opposed by people on both sides of the aisle. We have Republicans supporting Democrats and Democrats supporting Republicans if your against the Smelter. It has also showed the public just how bad the good oh boy network had become in our community. All one needs to do is read the emails and go through the minutes to see for themselves just how bad things truly are. Many of us believe that the Lawsuit filed against the Public Utility District, PendOreille County and HiTest will bring to light a number of very questionable actions taken by our local and state officials. The question will be. Will these public officials be held accountable for their actions? Such as in the case of the plowing of the BPA access road and the damage it caused to private property. On top of that we have the 6.5 Million that was put in the 6 year transportation budget for the HiTest access road off of Highway 2. All this for a Canadian Company that was not even registered to do business in the State of Washington at the time. The public sees that PendOreille County can afford to give a Canadian Company 100,000 but it can’t afford a resource officer for our public schools. Makes one wonder why a County Commissioner is acting like he works for HiTest and not the County. In the emails we learned that public employee’s we’re used to engineer, map, research grants, market and promote this Canadian company while ignoring the public and other businesses. It makes people very upset and makes them wonder who our public officials really serve? It sure as heck is not the public! Just ask the PendOreille Planning Commission which is a volunteer commission how they feel about things. Please keep up the good work and Thank you so much for helping the Citizens of PendOreille County and Northern Idaho bring exposure to what has been going on.
We would highly recommend that you read the http://pendoreillehealth.blogspot.com/. This blog was right on target and kept the public informed. In emails we received in our FOIA request we learned that a number of public officials we’re very concerned about the blog and it was shut down for some reason. Also there is this article from the Newport Miner in regards to the 2.94 million dollar lawsuit against the PNC.
Willenbrock: PNC Lawsuit Shouldn’t Affect PUD Rates
By Don Gronning | Of The Miner•
Feb 21, 2018
Because of this Lawsuit every person in PendOreille county will have to pay 228.00 to pay for it. Because of the Lawsuit the Bond ratings for the PUD dropped costing the customers and rate payers even more money. On top of this the PUD paid 693,000 for the public property and sold it to HiTest for 300,000.
Who is overseeing the formal health impact study to ensure they review impacts to fish and wildlife that are consumed by natives, local peoples and folks like myself that hunt and fish in the Newport area? Poisened land and plants probably equals poisened fish and wildlife.
So far I see no mention of the other dangerous pollutants this project will introduce to our local (Newport and Oldtown in particular). That is the 7/24 Noise and Light pollution which will accompany this monstrosity.
If it goes ahead we will never again have a dark, starry sky for ourselves and our children to gaze in wonder at. Our ears and senses will be assailed by the blaring, nerve shattering blasts from the horns of locomotives day and night, the frequent, impossible to ignore, beeping of backing -up machines or equipment, both day and night.
This will get on our nerves so thoroughly that slowly, we’ll become an entire community of crabby, sleep deprived, pissed -off people, A certain amount of silence and darkness on a daily basis is essential to good physical and mental health
Pend oreille is a dying county. Our population has been shrinking and have high unemployment. The cenus now shows us as a commuter population with our workers commuting to Spokane, Colville, and Sandpoint intstead of in county jobs. As the article states there are no free lunches in energy and wind solar hydro have been shown to have less of an impact then fossil. PO county is in need of well paying jobs with stability. PO county is in need of a tax generator to help offset the cost of police fire mental health schools, etc… that are always underfunded. There are cons to the project that cant be denied but the pros outweigh it. Jobs, taxes, cleaner energy, keeping working people and famlies in PO county, more services and support/service industry
Historically, your viewpoint, is limited to money. You are willing to sacrifice everything for money. Perhaps this is a wake-up call for Newport to court, create and find a different way to build jobs and quality of life. I lived in Spokane for 21 years and had been to Newport many times. It’s like a town waiting for it’s destiny….this smelter is NOT that destiny. Your destiny would require community involvement, which the movement to stop the smelter has created. Now, with the town’s attention, what kind of Newport do you REALLY want? Or how about you take an entire town vote….AND if you vote for the Smelter and if there are health and quality of life issues….those that voted for it would be directly responsible for any and all ramifications to Newport and the surrounding area….would that get your ATTENTION?
Your Clean Air Agency will use EPA models to estimate the pollution, and based on those estimates, will require control technologies.
It is my experience with Tesoro Savage and the Southwest Washington Clean Air Agency that both the EPA models and SWCAA staff underestimate the potential pollution and require less expensive pollution controls than needed.
It is essential that if permitted, independent monitoring of the air pollution and best available control technology be used.
Don Steinke, The Washington DOE and the EPA will do nothing to protect the public. Just ask the poor people up in Northport WA. http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/may/05/epa-declines-to-test-air-downwind-of-lead-smelter-/
We can not allow the HiTest now PacWest smelter to be built.
EEEE Ghaddd! Thank you for this informative article. Just shared it on facebook as well. Great comments too. When one lifts the rug to see what is underneath it…usually it’s pretty dirty and hasn’t been cleaned in a while. Another issue comes in from Sandpoint ID in this article.
According to Karen Hardy (WA state senate candidate) and Bill Ellis (30 year engineer) only 10% of the silicon produced at the smelter would be used for solar panels. This type of project should not be built on top of a hospital and schools. It should be moved near Hanford Washington in the desert. There should be a buffer zone between this type of facility and homes.
We, the citizens of Pend Oreille County, are responsible for protecting the environment for our children and grandchildren. We would be remiss if we do not fight to preserve the purity of their inheritance as well as the economic value of our properties. How dare we pass on anything less to future generations. We cannot be reckless with our clean, natural environment. PacWest needs OUR PERMISSION to destroy it. (When was it they asked?)
A study need to be done on the property value of the homes in a 100-mile radius of the Moses Lake smelter before – and – after the smelter was put into production. The proposed PacWest smelter essentially would sabotage the health of everyone and everything in the area, not to mention stealing money out of pockets via property values. This is still America and the rights of MANY need to be heard and respected over the right of a tiny few.
I would like to see a study done regarding the increase in power consumption of this proposed smelter and how it would affect the current ratepayers in Pend Oreille county (the people that paid to have this infrastructure established for themselves, a residential community). I understand the PUD is concerned that their major consumer, the saw mill at Usk, may reduce power demand or leave the area altogether. If instead, the mill at Usk decides there is a market for their wood chips, and they decide to stay open, how would the PUD supply power to both the mill at Usk and such an enormous energy consumer as this smelter without endangering the continuous supply of power to their base, residential customers who have borne the cost of building this system in the first place.
What happens and who gets power first when the inevitable power outages occur in early winter.
When will we put people’s lives and homes before the greed of corporate entities.
If this project is going to provide “jobs, taxes, cleaner energy… and support and services industries,” why isn’t it being built somewhere in Canada for the benefit of Canadian citizens? Could it be that Canada won’t allow it?
Si ce projet créera «des emplois, des taxes, une énergie plus propre… ainsi que des industries de soutien et de services», pourquoi ne pas le construire quelque part au Canada dans l’intérêt des citoyens canadiens? Se pourrait-il que le Canada ne le permette pas?
Carol J. Butterfield
Thank you for your balanced article and its primary source citations. One question I have is about the nature of the jobs being promised — during the two year building period and then if/when operation commences. More specifically, I’d like to know how the requirements for those jobs match up with the qualifications of the available workforce in Pend Oreille County. Thank you for whatever information you can provide on this issue.
As far as Pend Oreille county stands, the county depends mainly on resource extraction (lead and zinc mining), followed by timber and cement manufacturing. The biggest employment sectors in the county are manufacturing and government (the latter more than 50% of all jobs, and set to increase). As far as manufacturing, employment is currently limited by stagnant technology and efficiencies–this is where the energy sector–including this proposal–could easily come in and boost economy and lower the unemployment rate in Pend Oreille, using the established knowledge of local blue collar workers. As for the rest, I’ll let our researcher get back to you on the specifics of this project in Pend Oreille.
– Sightline Communications Associate, Kelsey Hamlin
Good article. The comments about jobs from people who are interested in them however fail to address the big picture which looks like a dirty scene from the old coal towns in places people from here have never lived. I hope people will do some research before they cheer on this PacWest Silicon smelter business because from what I have read those jobs are very difficult and lead to health problems. Now how about your quality of life when you are at home living anywhere downwind of the smelter? Not good clean air like you breath now. And how about all the truck and train loads of materials going through all the roadways around the area? Think about where you live!
The carbon gas emissions has doubled to 766,000 tons per year now. The Rec Silicon plant is owned by a China company. Microsoft and many other tech companies buy product from What Rec produces. Governor Inslee’ who has helped in funding this monster carbon emitting smelter list Microsoft as one of his top contributors. Hypocrite Inslee who is also running a green campaign for President has been promoted heavily by Al Gore who is partners with David Blood (both one Generstion Inbestments) who happen to have 570,000 in Microsoft and more money in other artificial intelligence industries that demand high grade silicone to be even more profitable. This coal burning smelter is just a get rich con for fear mongering billionaires and I’m personally not into promoting a China company Rec Group (bluebird) to make billions of dollars meanwhile by forced China law they pay taxes still in China that fund a communist government. It’s all facts and just takes a little research. Follow the money and the emails.
Also remember, only a VERY small portion of the silicon produced will be pure enough to use is computer chips or solar panels. By Pac Wests own market reports, and general market trends in the silicon industry, 80% of the silicon produced at this plant will go into Automotive paints and plastics.
Leslie E Smith
If they think their smelter is so great, why don’t they then make it in Canada? If Canada won’t let them build it there, then we probably shouldn’t let them do it here